In "Phantom Second Amendment Rights" {op-ed, Nov. 4}, Erwin Griswold argues that the Second Amendment was designed to preserve organized militias instead of guaranteeing an individual right to own firearms. His article ignores history and misstates the Supreme Court's holding in the principal Second Amendment case.

The Framers of the Second Amendment intended to preserve a militia of the whole population, equipped with individuals' own arms. The Framers' purpose was not simply to preserve the right of states to maintain militias but also to preserve the people's right to own arms as a hedge against potential tyranny. That view was expressed by Second Amendment author James Madison, who extolled "the advantage of being armed, which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation."

The Supreme Court in United States v. Miller recognized that privately owned arms were protected because they contributed to the maintenance of the militia of the whole population. The court simply expressed skepticism that a sawed-off shotgun was a militia weapon.

Mr. Griswold has a right to his view that the Second Amendment is obsolete. What he should do is seek to amend the Constitution, not ignore it.

ROBERT J. COTTROL Associate Professor, Rutgers School of Law Camden, N.J.

Erwin Griswold's scholarship relative to the Second Amendment is as faulty as that of Warren Burger in his infamous Jan. 14 Parade magazine article.

Regarding the constitutional guarantee of a right to be armed for private purposes, Tench Coxe, the author of the legislative record surrounding the ratification of the Second Amendment, stated: "The people are confirmed by the next article of their right to keep and bear their private arms." His record also reveals that drafts containing "for the common defense only" language for the Second Amendment were specifically rejected by the Senate during the ratification process.

Mr. Griswold contends that the Second Amendment does not empower everyone with a right to wield firearms beyond legislative control. Nothing could be further from the truth. Patrick Henry stated, "Guard with jealous attention to the public liberty. Suspect every one who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are ruined . . . The great object is that every man be armed . . . Everyone who is able may have a gun."

John Adams stated, ". . . arms in the hands of citizens to be used at individual discretion . . . in private self-defense." The same men responsible for ratification of the Constitution passed the Militia Act of 1792 in which they enrolled all able-bodied males in the militia and required them to own arms. These words and acts are not the actions of men who wanted the right to keep and bear arms to depend upon legislative fiat or bureaucratic whim to remain viable.

In fact, it has only been since 1906 that the courts invented the limitations upon the coverage of the Second Amendment when the Kansas Supreme Court announced that the Second Amendment did not apply to individuals. This view is hardly unanimous. Eighty-seven percent of the American population believes that the Constitution guarantees individuals the right to keep and bear arms. It is also true that no major scholarly work concerning the Second Amendment in the past two decades has supported a "collective" or "state's right" interpretation of the right to keep and bear arms.

If Mr. Griswold wants to see whether the militia will muster in the town square with its members' own guns to engage in military exercises today, he need only convince Congress that it should pass a law designed to confiscate privately held arms.